Brighter, greener, thriftier for 2012

2012-01-08T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:26:19Z Brighter, greener, thriftier for 2012Alex Dalenberg Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

When it comes to sprucing up the home and hearth this year, Tucson interior designers say homes are going to be bright, inventive and likely a few shades greener. And if saving money is also a New Year's resolution, there are some ideas for that, too.

We asked some of Tucson's home design and decor experts what trends they expect to see in the upcoming year.

Bright colors are in

Drab is out. People are looking to bring an upbeat mood to their homes this year, said Sharmin Pool-Bak of Complete Dimensions Interior Design.

While muted or neutral colors were popular last year, Pool-Bak said she's seeing a shift toward more brilliant color schemes including orange, tangerine, melon and honeysuckle pink.

"There was a point in time where we were going toward kind of gray and almost drab colors which I think reflected everyone's philosophy on the economy," she said. "Now I'm seeing things come out in bright and optimistic colors. … It's almost a knee-jerk reaction, crisping everything up and keeping it bright and courageous, trying to fire things up for the New Year."

Green concepts

Green and sustainable design practices have been steadily gaining in popularity since Pamela Portwood founded eco-friendly design firm Greener Lives about three years ago. What started as a niche business has has mainstream traction, with green design popping up throughout the industry in catalogs and trade magazines.

"Residential products were not available when I started, frankly. But now there are so many products it's hard to keep up with," Portwood said.

Just about any product in the home has a green counterpart. Portwood advises homeowners on selecting sustainable, nontoxic paints and carpets as well as energy- and water-efficient plumbing and appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators and low-flush toilets.

Th prices of these products have come down significantly compared with their older counterparts, Portwood said. But even when green design is more expensive, there are trade-offs in the form of smaller electricity and water bills.

"You can do small things like caulking windows and doors. There are a whole lot of small things you can do that really add up before you get into something major like replacing your windows," she said.

A more natural look

Furniture companies are producing more natural products to match the more eco-friendly consciousness that's sweeping through home design, said Liz Ryan of Liz Ryan Design. The result is a more organic, natural feel.

"We're seeing more scrubbed finishes in tables and beds with headboards. Scrubbed, driftwood finishes emphasizing that organic, natural feel and blended with more burnished metals."

Natural fiber linens and sustainable woods such as bamboo and cork also are catching on. Bamboo regrows quickly and cork can be harvested without killing the tree.

"I think … everyone has a little more responsibility to what we're doing in our environment. This portrays that sort of responsibility," Ryan said.

Aging-in-place designs

Aging baby boomers are looking to remodel their homes for the long haul with attractive but user-friendly schemes known as aging-in-place interior design, Portwood said. The idea is to make the home easier to get around in for aging residents. Improvements include shower seating, single-lever faucets that don't require twisting, and cabinets, shelving and other surfaces that avoid bending.

"The goal is to create attractive design that doesn't look institutionalized. That's exactly what people don't want. (They want) to live in a home that looks beautiful and stylish," she said.

Reinventions

Even if homeowners aren't looking to splurge on a major remodel or living-room makeover, much can be accomplished by swapping out linens or adding new pillows to a bed or sofa.

"Even treating yourself to a simple luxury can really transform a room," Pool-Bak said.

Reupholstering or repurposing items for another part of the house is another popular way to shake things up.

"I think people are really embracing repurposing, found items, reupholstered items, not just in a frugalista sense, but in breathing new life into pieces," Pool-Bak said. "People are holding back and not willing to commit to buying a brand-new home, but they are making their personal space just as comfortable and really letting that be a statement that they can put into their personal space."

Examples of this trend include taking an indoor piece that may have seen better days and giving it a paint job or a tile treatment and moving it to the patio or a different room. Pool-Bak said she worked with one welder who turned parts from old an washing machine into an outdoor fire pit.

"It's not just to be green. They're doing it to really to have a personal ownership or creation in what's being worked with, to find something fun. I think it's some of that frugalista attitude coming out in fashion."

Alex Dalenberg is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at alex.dalenberg@gmail.com

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